Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Invocabit Sunday (Lent 1)
February 21, 2010
Genesis 3:1-21, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, St. Matthew 4:1-11
TITLE: “Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from our Gospel lesson just read from St. Matthew chapter four.
Today we talk about temptation. Temptation in our culture is a popular topic. It usually involves something about eating forbidden fruit, and has taken on an almost sexual quality today. Being tempted is almost viewed by many as a good thing, not as a bad thing at all.
But temptations are one of the ingredients that make up everyday life as a Christian. Jesus even says “it is necessary that temptations come.” Temptations, it seems, are maybe the perfect example of a necessary evil. We know, however, that God tempts no one (Sixth Petition explanation from the Catechism). So if they don’t come from God, where do temptations come from in the first place? To answer that, let’s take a second and review the Small Catechism on the Sixth Petition. If you want, you can follow along in the hymnal on page 324. It goes as follows:
The Sixth Petition
And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean?
God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
So temptations really come from two places, inside us and outside of us. When we talk about outside temptations, we really are talking about the devil and the world. He is the Prince of this World and it is his domain, so it should not surprise us that he will use whatever he can in order to lead us away from Jesus in into him. His strategy is very simple: create doubt. “Did God really say” as we heard in Genesis 3. The devil’s goal is to make it so that you don’t believe that God has your best interests at heart. His goal is to entice you to believe that God hates you, that you are in this all by yourself, and that you might as well live it up, because you are all alone.
This is how Satan tempted our Lord in the wilderness. He tempted our Lord to use His powers to His own benefit. If you think about it, that’s kind of an odd temptation, isn’t it? I mean, doesn’t God want us to use what God has given us? Surely God wants me to use my talents, my gifts, my money, everything that I have.
This part of temptation brings us to the second way we are tempted. We are tempted by our own desires. James writes in his epistle, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” We are tempted always to act selfishly. We are tempted to do our own thing, to not worry about the consequences, and to let everyone else deal with their own problems. That make work okay in business, I guess, but that is not the way that God works.
The radical thing about Christianity is this crazy idea that God takes care of us, and so God puts people into my lives so that God can use me to take care of others. That is really the point of the ten commandments. Love God with your whole heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am not real fond of loving my neighbor as myself. I would like to love my neighbor on my terms, when it is convenient for me, not when they need me. But that is the essence of temptation to sin. I am tempted to take care of my own body the way I want and not to help others. I am tempted to be faithful to my own desires and not the desires and needs of my spouse. I should try and help others keep the things God has given them, not just take them when I can. I should speak well of others, not gossip and lie about them. I should be content with what God gives me, not long for what others have and are.
Heaven knows there is plenty of temptation to go around. It is important to note, though, that being tempted isn’t a sin. We have enough sin all on our own without having to pile imaginary ones on top of them all. We are all tempted, even our Lord Himself was tempted. That’s not the sin. The sin comes in giving in to temptation.
So what is the solution, what is our weapon against the temptations that plague us inside and out? The answer lies in the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. Satan’s scheme is to get you to think your own thoughts and not hear God’s thoughts. So the best defense in this case is a good offense, and that is God’s Word. “It is written,” Jesus declares! It is written that God forgives you. It is written that you are not simply trapped, but that you are free by the blood of Jesus. It is written that you are going to heaven, and that the temptations of this world will last for but a short time.
What this means for you is not that there won’t be temptations. There are and there will be. Some of these temptations which you face are pure evil. The sad reality is that in this life, sometimes you sin whether you zig or zag. Sometimes no matter what you do is going to hurt someone. But Jesus is here for you. What I mean by that is first of all He understands your temptations. Remember that He was tempted just like we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). But Jesus is not simply here for you. He stands before the devil, the world, and your sinful nature in your place. Where you fail, and you do, He succeeds. He resists the temptation because you cannot. And guess what? You get all the credit. It is written, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin (I John 1).
Hold fast to Jesus Christ and His Word of Promise! He has gone through all things for you. He loves you. He endures all things for you. Come into His presence. He turned down the bread of the devil so that He might give His body and blood to you for all time. He is faithful. He will see you through it. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.